The recent announcement that storied Parisian retailer colette would be shuttering after two decades came as a shock to the fashion industry. At a time when retail isn’t doing so hot, it was one of the mainstays that seemed like it was going to weather the storm.
Founded in 1997 by Sarah Andelman and her mother Colette Roussaux, after whom the store was named, the multi-level shop developed a reputation as a concept store where high-end fashion designers shared shelf space with emerging streetwear labels and covetable sneakers.
It even featured a luxurious water bar, a rather extensive selection of books and magazines, and a ton of stylish knickknacks and tchotchkes for impulse buyers and Parisian tourists wanting to take home a special souvenir – even if it was something as asinine as a skateboard-shaped fidget spinner.
colette was also known for its myriad collaborations, usually featuring the signature blue dots in the store’s logo. Covering everything from sneakers to even a recent pair of Birkenstocks.
Their in-store installations were also a wonder to behold. The Balenciaga pop-up featured Bernie Sanders campaign-inspired souvenirs like lighters and neon slap bracelets, and a Ferrari sliced in half in the middle of the sales floor. Shoppers were also given the option to create their own Balenciaga-branded T-shirts and hoodies.
The news of colette’s closure broke in the middle of New York Fashion Week: Men’s. We spoke to a few industry insiders and got their thoughts on colette’s legacy in the industry, and what they’ll miss most about the Parisian boutique.
Phil Oh, Photographer
“They were the first people that did an exhibition of my street style photos way back. I don’t know, in ’08 or something. It was the first time I felt like, accepted. You know, it’s not like I’ve bought anything in there, but I feel like every time I’m in Paris, I always stop by and look.”
Eric Cano, Casting Director
“I think that’s really unfortunate. colette was an institution and I’m really sad to hear it’s shuttering it’s doors, but retail is kind of crazy right now, so I’m not surprised.”
Angelo Urrutia, Brand Director at Nepenthes
“It’s remarkable because it was always more of an approachable way to shop ‘fashion’ than most concept shops with more of an emphasis on luxury and elitism.”
Jaron Ross, Men’s Designer Buyer at Bergdorf Goodman
“As I’m sure with many, the most remarkable thing to me about colette was the experience. You could walk in on Monday, shop the whole store, and discover something in an entirely new way on Tuesday. Every choice was purposeful, and it had something (small or large) for almost all of its many visitors. I’ve learned many lessons about our industry at colette, and will be sad to see it go.”
Dan Roberts, Photographer
“I mean [colette has] done an amazing job honestly. It’s like an institution and a service. I think, I don’t know for sure, but maybe it’s anticipating the downfall of retail.”
John Jannuzzi, Deputy Editor at Twitter Moments and former editor at GQ
“I went to colette once. I thought it was a tourist trap, and at the time when I went, a lot of people were telling me to just avoid it, so maybe the writing was on the wall?
But that said, what colette did for retail in it’s tenure was really important. It’s sad when stuff like that goes south, because it makes you also wonder: What’s going to happen to Dover Street Market, or even Opening Ceremony?
colette paved the way for a lot of stores like that, and it’s shocking to see a store with that kind of foot traffic into that place, that it couldn’t survive with all of those people.”
Jonathan Evans, Senior Style Editor at Esquire
“I’m kind of shell-shocked by it. I didn’t expect it. I was worried at first when I saw the headlines that it was part of the ongoing retail apocalypse, but it’s nice to know that it’s just them deciding that now is the time. I’m really happy I got the chance to go by there once or twice. We are gonna see a lot less awesome collaborations in the future.”
Tommy Ton, Photographer
“It is a tourist attraction, but in some ways it was a fixture on Saint Honore, because that’s where you would go to be seen and to see people, and also I think what was most brilliant about colette was the merchandising. Whoever styled the mannequins did a phenomenal job, and I think you would just go there to be visually inspired.
I never felt compelled to buy clothing there, but what was interesting was it was reflective of the times of the magazines, music, videos, clothing, art. I was fortunate enough to be exhibited there, and I don’t think of it as a retail mecca, I think it was more as a cultural mecca, and they’re smart to go out on a high note.
It’s also a sign of what the times are in terms of retail. You know, it’s a very tricky time. I mean, fashion is going in a very odd direction, and them closing is indicative of that. But yeah, I think what everyone will miss is just being able to go in there and just look at some books, listen to a few tracks, look at some magazines, or find a brand that you’ve never heard of. I think that was really interesting.
They weren’t super selective about who they were featuring. It was very much a hodgepodge of various people, from various backgrounds and countries and all that kind of stuff.”
Chris Black, Cultural Commentator and founder of Done to Death Projects
“It had it’s moment, you know? I think it’s time. The water bar was very, very cool. That’s what I’m most interested in—the high-end water bar.”
Matthew Henson, Stylist
“I think it’s the end of an era. I think when colette opened, it opened up other avenues for street weardesign. It’s sad to see it go, but I’m sure they’ll recreate and do something else.”
Isaac LaRose, Designer at LaRose Paris
“When I launched my brand, my only goal was to start colette and then close my brand, go back home, and say I sold at colette. So, five years later, to still be stocked there, it’s amazing. It’s such an institution, retail has changed for fashion, and I’m just so proud to be a part of it.”
Jacob Gallagher, Men’s Fashion Editor at Wall Street Journal’s Off-Duty
“When I arrived in Paris for this last fashion week, I had a few hours to kill on my first day. That was the place that I went to. And that’s what colette has always satisfied. I remember the first time I went to Paris, god probably like 10-15 years ago for vacation, it was just a place that you went to and it felt like you could go in as an fashion outsider.
You could peruse the books, you could look at their assortment of knick-knacks and miscellaneous bullshit, but then upstairs it was one of the best curated assortments of clothes that existed, and it really did what a store should do. It moved the market, and frankly it’s disappointing that stores like that can’t survive anymore.
I always thought that them having that mix and being high and being low, and having a real stance is what would make them endure. It’s sad. It’s a big loss because we have to look to those points of entry for customers, as being a reflection of what people want, a reflection of what people should be buying, it distills it down from the runway.”
Brian Trunzo, Senior Menswear Editor at WGSN
“It’s the saddest thing to hit my news feed in like months. It’s confusing, because the news is slow to trickle out as to what happened. It’s just depressing for retail. I mean, I love retail, and to see one of my favorite stores go away is very sad. The fact that they haven’t really come out and said what’s happening, whether like it’s a familial thing, or the rents are going up, or it’s fatigue.
You figure with something this dramatic and with this much closure and finality, that there’s like a reason. Like they had a discussion, there was a reason. The reports were that they did like $32 million Euros last year. That rent is very high, but that’s more than enough to sustain that business. They’re making money.
And also, with YSL coming in immediately, and that being a part of the news, I wonder whether it’s a sub-lease situation. I wonder whether they’re going to keep the lease and sub-lease it to Saint Laurent, because why would they mention them? This isn’t a story about Saint Laurent moving in. Maybe it’s a goodwill thing, like they’re afraid that people will look at Saint Laurent as kicking out colette. I don’t know. The whole thing sucks though.”
Remember the glory days of colette by looking at the legendary retailer’s 20 best collaborations.
- Main Image: Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com